The Society was formed in October 1899, as a successor to a number of choral groups that had existed in the town for many years. Its beginnings were as a Choral and Orchestral Society, and it had enthusiastic support from all the great names in the town’s carpet-making past, as well as from many local musicians.
J. Irving Glover was the Society’s first conductor, and he remained so until his death on Christmas Day 1931. The first concert was given in Kidderminster Town Hall in February 1900, the main work being Sterndale Bennett’sSir Edward Elgar “The May Queen” – part of this work was performed at the Society’s Centenary celebrations in 1999.Irving Glover’s programmes included many of the great oratorios of the classical and romantic periods, including Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” and “St. Paul”, Handel’s “Messiah” and “Judas Maccabeus”, Elgar’s “Dream of Gerontius” and “The Music Makers”, Brahms’s “German Requiem” and Haydn’s “Creation”. These stalwarts are still in the repertoire today, except for “St. Paul”, who has only made one appearance in 105 years!
The Great War (1914-1918) was a quiet period for the Society – only two concerts were presented during that time. Sir Edward Elgar became the Society’s President in 1927 – an appointment which, it was said by the chairman of the day, should make the Society “the envy of all the choral societies in the country”.
The works performed at the concert of February 1932 paid tribute to Irving Glover, and the conductor was Harry N. Oakes, who was subsequently appointed the Society’s conductor. He held the post until 1952.
The Society’s concert in 1934 was overshadowed by the death of its President, Sir Edward Elgar, three weeks before. Representatives were subsequently present at the unveiling in Worcester Cathedral of a window commemorating one of the city’s and county’s most famous sons.
The Society’s first performance of Vaughan Williams’s “A Sea Symphony”, with which the various music critics were variously over- and underwhelmed, although the majority complimented the choir and orchestra on even attempting what all felt was a difficult work.
The years of the Second World War, unlike those of the First, saw an uninterrupted series of concerts by the Society, although – perhaps understandably – the programmed works had all been performed before.
To be continued!
With acknowledgements to C.H. Mockett: Kidderminster Choral Society 1899-1999: A Commemorative Volume (The Peterhouse Press, 1999 ISBN 0 946312 11 7).
This book is available from the Society – please click here if you would like further information.
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